The Fiscal Cliff and Secularism

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That we seem to be merrily rolling along toward a fiscal cliff is evident. Why is not as clear — at least not the deep why. Some of the depth of the problem can be plumbed out if we look at the relationship between secularism and our current morbid financial mess.

Moderator note: From reading the full article on The Catholic Register : the real problem is secularism - if all we have is this life then why not be greedy and take whatever you can. Afterall we don’t have to answer to god. Also he states that the US is “dangerously close” to European governments in terms of the percentage of the economy that the US government spends.  Actually, no where near that if you adjust the military spending in the US to that of the rest of the world. (typos corrected)


To live in a secular world means that the only heaven, if there is to be one, will be on earth. And since there are no souls in a secular, materialist world, then the only goods we can get are bodily goods. Thus, we run on from the self-preservation of having sufficient food, clothing and shelter to seek superfluous pleasures, titillations, entertainments and luxuries.

If we don’t get it here and now, we won’t get it at all. That’s one key aspect of our current cliff-hanging experience.

Another is the immense growth in size and power of the modern secular state, which is itself both a cause and a result of increasing secularization.

Modern secularism is, both by definition and actual historical effect, the removal of Christianity and the Church from the defining center of the culture. But that removal leaves a kind of institutional vacuum into which the secular state itself rushes. The modern state takes over the whole “space” that had previously been occupied by both the Church and the state as distinct, complementary powers.

That whole space covered humanity’s full range of existence, stretching from this world to the next, from the temporal goods of the body to the eternal glories of the soul. But in a secularized world, that whole space — that whole spectrum of human desire and fulfillment — is crammed into the temporal realm, and it is the secular state that attempts to satisfy it.

That’s why the modern state has gained so much power. Subtract God and the Church, as secularism by definition does, and the state becomes the greatest source of collective human power on earth. And so to that power we run, and ask of it, or take from it, all we long for, all we can get.

Written By: Benjamin Wiker – National Catholic Register
continue to source article at ncregister.com

19 COMMENTS

  1. Well, we all know that the Vatican is just full of food parcels waiting to be given to the poor. Did they not sell off all their art, gold and jewels to feed the needy? I believe they stripped the marble from the walls to build homes for orphans. Doesn’t the Pope walk about in rags because they are so poor from giving that he can afford no other garments?

    What a load.

    Look at every religiously run country, it is the leaders who have all the finery. They give shit to the poor but a hook and bait to catch a “soul”, whatever that is.

  2. Moderator note: From reading the full article on The Catholic Register : the real problem is secuaralism – if all we have is this life then why not be greedy and take whatever you can. Afterall we don’t have to answer to god. Also he states that the US is “dangerously close” to European governemnts in terms of the percentage of the econony that the US government spends. Actually, no where near that if you adjust the military spending in the US to that of the rest of the world.

    No, I disagree..

    The real problem is proof-reading.

    Anvil.

  3. I might debunk it line by line later, but it’s more productive to first say what does cause the Fiscal Cliff: it’s when the sorts of changes in spending and taxes that serve to reduce deficits have bad economic effects, i.e. when spending falls and taxes rise. This is what is often called fiscal prudence. I won’t get into the “is it good or bad?” debate here, but neither did Jesus. He didn’t say what the best tax rate was, or whether the rich should pay a higher percentage, or which things government should fund, or what should be cut first when cutbacks are needed. It’s not a Christian issue. It’s an issue worthy of consequential analysis, which means it’s an ethical issue; but that’s not the same thing, is it?

  4. If secularism is partly responsible for society facing the fiscal cliff, why is America on the very brink? I thought that that society, according to latest polls, was nearly three quarters religious?

  5. In reply to #1 by This Is Not A Meme:

    Hi This Is Not A Meme,

    Haidt (2001) lists four reasons to doubt the cognitive primacy model, and his first is to point to the evidence that many moral judgements take place “automatically”, by which he appears to mean reactively – as if intuitively or instinctively.

    Besides, isn’t Kohlberg considered a little too male-centric these days?

    More seriously; it seems to me we have every reason to be outraged by this kind of language. I don’t know about you, but I don’t go around saying that Catholics lack morality without evidence. On that basis I do, of course, frequently complain that Catholics are immoral because of the overwhelming evidence that significant numbers visit violence and torture on defenceless children.

    We should be writing to the Editor and complaining that we are being slandered.

    Peace.

  6. Jeez ! For once I find myself in complete agreement with a Catholic perspective:

    To live in a secular world means that the only heaven, if there is to be one, will be on earth. And since there are no souls in a secular, materialist world, then the only goods we can get are bodily goods. Thus, we run on from the self-preservation of having sufficient food, clothing and shelter to seek superfluous pleasures, titillations, entertainments and luxuries.

    Perhaps other posters could tell me if the rest of the article is worth reading ? I mean does it go about there being something higher and more meaningful than actual life here on Earth, and all that other mumbo jumbo so beloved of Catholics ?

    OH ! It does ! Shock horror. I had better stop right now !

  7. Wiker not only confuses the definition of the ‘secularism’ but also the ‘fiscal cliff’. According to the Congressional Budget Office it was a decrease in deficit spending that projected to cause a decrease in GDP and an increase in unemployment, the so-called ‘cliff’. The OP is a confusing mess and he doesn’t demonstrate any understanding of the economic issue at all.

    http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43694

    Also, I fear that the notion that ‘there is no reason to be good without god’ can be a self-fulfilling prophecy for some people so I wish the pious would stop using that damn unevidenced argument for that reason.

  8. I have complained to the Editor who can be reached on the e-mail address: twehner@ewtn.com.

    Text Summary:

    Dear Jeanette De Melo,

    I do not appreciate being spitefully slandered by Benjamin Wiker [The Fiscal Cliff and Secularism, 27th Dec. 2012].

    Wiker claims: “ … the problem secularism causes is … To boil it down … the dilution and then dismissal of the need for virtue.”

    How abusive, how smug, how derogatory, how unprincipled to label others as automatically wicked.

    I do not know of any capitalists who espouse self-interest as an entire and sufficient basis for virtue, as Wiker asserts. Adam Smith, the philosopher, economist and progenitor of the harnessing of self-interest is widely regarded as fully aware of commerce’s harmful effects.

    For Wiker to equate a more secular society with “ … things became more crass”, without presenting any evidence for such an accusation would appear to be a perfect example of the asinine that he claims to deplore.

    • What is Wiker’s evidence that these people were secularists, or that the majority of this group were secular, or even that a significant minority were secular?

    • On what basis does Wiker label all secularists, and only secularists, as students of this pop-philosophy? It seems to me that Catholics were not under-represented.

    Wiker asks us to believe: “If this World is all there is, and there’s no punishment to fear from God in the next, you should make as much money as you can, any way you can.”

    That may be a Catholic’s immoral presumption, but it is not mine. My ethics do not include riding rough-shod over my neighbour simply to enrich myself. I need only apply the pre-religion Golden Rule to work that out. In any case my moral, secular, intuition has so far proved sufficient reflection.

    The so-called Fiscal Cliff is a distillation of the desire of politicians to remain in office by pretending that they can give us it all now – until it carries us over the brink. I could, of course, lower myself to Wiker’s level and claim that many religious people repeatedly voted for this … But I refuse to be dragged into the gutter with Wiker.

    Suffice it to say that one may be both religious, and secular. Many millions of Christians – including many Catholics – around the World appreciate this and happily promote secular polities alongside their faith.

    I urge the National Catholic Register to take a much harder look at the effects of the anti-secular movement in Catholicism, as epitomised by this ugly, false, aggressive and divisive column by Wiker. While other forces are on the rise in the World, Catholics would be ill-served by a world-view that alienates so many possible friends.

    Peace.

  9. It appears that the US Congress has signed the bill passed by the Senate. The fiscal cliff has been postponed, at least for now in America. However, the fiscal cliff of secularism forcing religion out of politics is all but a forgone conclusion. The GOP will become a joke when they are voted from control in congress in the mid term elections. 2013 makes the commencement of the diminishing influence of religion on our private lives and more emphasis on the will of the majority rather than the will of big business and churches.

  10. In reply to #5 by Jos Gibbons:

    I might debunk it line by line later, but it’s more productive to first say what does cause the Fiscal Cliff: it’s when the sorts of changes in spending and taxes that serve to reduce deficits have bad economic effects, i.e. when spending falls and taxes rise. This is what is often called fiscal prudence. I won’t get into the “is it good or bad?” debate here, but neither did Jesus. He didn’t say what the best tax rate was, or whether the rich should pay a higher percentage, or which things government should fund, or what should be cut first when cutbacks are needed. It’s not a Christian issue. It’s an issue worthy of consequential analysis, which means it’s an ethical issue; but that’s not the same thing, is it?””

    No, it’s definitely not the same. Everyone knows that there is no ethics in religion or politics, especially when the GOP are in power. Christian issues are not of the sane, corporeal world and therefore do not exist; nor should they in reality or politics.

  11. One doesn’t have to be too familiar with world politics to realise that there appears to be an inverse relationship with religiosity and the greed factor. Political conservatism/ religious observance/selfish policies. Isn’t this how it goes? To draw another conclusion is just perverse.
    Countries that put into practice more altruistic policies are generally taxed at a much higher rate, and have the lowest proportion of religious believers.Please point out any inconsistencies if I’m wrong.

  12. “We must be clear here. The problem is not, as such, the government providing a safety net for its most unfortunate citizens. If that were all that the state did, the states wouldn’t be going bankrupt. The problem is that the various entitlement programs go well beyond a safety net and provide ever more lavish benefits to more and more people so that now middle-income people are dipping into the federal entitlement pie.”

    To blame the fiscal cliff on middle class secular welfare is a bit rich coming from the richest of the worlds faith who get substantial tax breaks from governments not just in America but in many other countries.

    The blame for the debt problems stems from a lack of political will to make hard decisions regarding raising taxes and reducing spending. Painful as it might be politically; people in the US need to accept the fact that as a country grows and the demands for government spending increases then this must be paid for in taxes. No one wants or likes to pay taxes let alone increasing taxes. But the sooner the bitter pill is swallowed the sooner it can start reducing debt. Unfortunately politicians on both sides love to promise lower taxes to win votes and combined with the tax breaks and low rates of taxation on the people who can most afford to pay more taxes makes for a debt problem that will just keep going on.

  13. That we seem to be merrily rolling along toward a fiscal cliff is evident. Why is not as clear — at least not the deep why. Some of the depth of the problem can be plumbed out if we look at the relationship between secularism and our current morbid financial mess.

    Nothing to do with the corporate greed and brinkmanship of the Xtian right putting THEIR POLITICS before the community good! ?????

    ..and of course in the historical past, the churches, Prince-Bishops, Xtian Kings and the Vatican, would not dream of hoarding treasures, living in lavish palaces, or conspiring with war-lords or dictators, while the poor starved!

    These are (allegedly) all inventions of scientific secularism and societies with a social conscience and a welfare system!
    (PULL THE OTHER LEG – IT HAS BELLS ON!)

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